One Fighter Boxing's Top Stars Should Be Scared Of: Keith Thurman

Brian McDonaldContributor ISeptember 2, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26:  Keith Thurman celebrates his win over Julio Diaz after their two round fight for the interim WBA Welterweight Championship at StubHub Center on April 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Boxers can't get scared.

That's what some fans and media will tell you, but fear and being scared is a natural reaction that can't be avoided. It's how you handle and harness that fear that separates the good fighters from the great fighters.

I heard the great George Foreman in a radio interview several years ago mention that having some level of fear while he was in the ring was important to his success and keeping him focused. He also mentioned that when he lost that fear it negatively impacted his performance.

In a piece for CNN with Monita Rajpal and Talk Asia, Foreman talked about that fear in regards to his famous match with Muhammad Ali.

"In boxing, I had a lot of fear. Fear was good. But, for the first time, in the bout with Muhammad Ali, I didn't have any fear. I thought, 'This is easy. This is what I've been waiting for.' No fear at all. No nervousness. And I lost."

Fear becomes a bad thing when you shrink and let it control you when you're confronted with that feeling. If you can channel it into training harder, studying more and performing better to avoid whatever it is you fear, then that feeling or emotion driving you is actually a very good thing to have.

Fear in the animal world and in the deep regions of our brain that we don't fully understand triggers your natural fight-or-flight response. When confronted with danger, your options are to fight it or run from it.

Fighting that danger is viewed as courageous and brave, so it shouldn't be a surprise that we often love boxers who take on the toughest competition while we criticize those who duck tough matches. Fighting against long odds and overcoming them is heroic in a sense and easily embraced by fans.

At the same time, however, can you really blame a boxer who didn't want to get in the ring with Mike Tyson during his prime? It seemed like Tyson had one-punch, end-your-life-type power, so it's hard for me to judge someone who passed on a fight with him during his prime.

Fighters also feared Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Fighters today seem to fear Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev from the way many—Adonis Stevenson and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.—run away from potential fights.

One boxer who hasn't reached the star level yet but should be feared by the top boxer's in his weight division is Keith Thurman.

Some of you are probably scratching your head at this suggestion, but you've already made it this far so stick with me and I'll explain.

This article is about someone the top stars should fear, not someone who is already a star who other boxers should fear. Boxer's understandably have fear of Ruslan Provodnikov, Lucas Matthysse, Golovkin, Kovalev, Marcos Maidana and others, but they've all held belts and/or fought in big matches.

For this article, I want to take a look at a boxer who is at the level right below the guys I just mentioned.

So why should boxers fear Thurman?

While he's still relatively untested at the elite level due to the competition he's faced so far, Thurman appears to be the complete package in terms of what it takes to be an elite-level fighter.

Thurman has very good power, which, of course, is a major factor in why another boxer would fear him. He doesn't have the frightening power of Matthysse, Golovkin or Kovalev, but he has more than enough to end any fight early.

The 25-year-old welterweight has scored a knockout victory in 21 of his 23 wins—with no defeats—with his first 10 decisions coming with a stoppage inside of three full rounds. One of Thurman's most recent stoppages came against Diego Chaves, who gave Brandon Rios everything he could handle last August.

Thurman has power in both hands, isn't afraid to go downstairs to the body—knocked down Chaves with a left hand to the body—and isn't reliant on landing just one punch, but instead is able to devastate his opponents with powerful combinations.

Unlike other powerful punchers, however, Thurman isn't a one-trick pony. He has the speed and pure boxing skill to win 12-round decisions when necessary. Watch one fight of his and you'll see the defense, the head movement and hand speed necessary to outclass pure boxers.

Not only does Thurman hit like a sledgehammer, but he's difficult to hit back. Not a combination that causes other boxers to rush and sign up to fight him. Who wants to look silly when they miss on a big punch and have the further humiliation of getting knocked down from the big counter shot?

What also makes Thurman an undesirable fight at the moment is that he's not a big enough name yet to bring in the big money it will take for the stars of the division to feel it's worth the risk of fighting him. Who's going to take a fight that tough if there isn't a big payday accompanying the match?

Only fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao could afford to face Thurman since they'll each receive huge purses no matter who they fight. With Thurman signed with Al Haymon, however, of those two only a match with Mayweather is even remotely possible at the moment.

Thurman might be ready for that test in terms of skill, but he needs to be tested in a tough match and rack up some bigger wins before he can earn that big fight.

Over this fall—likely October—and next spring Thurman should look for fights against guys like Kell Brook, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander or Robert Guerrero, who would all be his toughest test to date and provide him a match to prove his legitimacy and be a steppingstone to the next level.

It also helps that all those matches can be made since none of those fighters are with Top Rank, who won't work with Thurman's "adviser," Al Haymon.

For Scarface is was money, power and women. For "One Time" Thurman it will be his power, speed and defense.

He has everything required to make big fights, win big fights and become a member of boxing's elite.

The only thing in his way are the boxers too scared to fight him.